33 Ways to Learn that are Way Better than Traditional Schooling.

Photo Credit: Duke University Archives/Flickr

Back to school? Noooo!

Wait. I’m a teacher. I am supposed to believe in the power of school.

I will soon start my ninth year of school teaching, in fact.

My career in education was an oasis, after I fled my first career because I hated myself as an advertising copywriter.

Nowadays, I am inclined to think, as Clark Aldrich writes, that “What a person learns in a classroom is how to be a person in a classroom.”

And, frankly, being a part of the broken, immoral education-industrial complex, the monolithic monopoly forever, futilely trying to reform itself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The current school system is so f***ed up, it isn’t workable.

Aldrich also posits that being fed quality food is the first key to education.

Thinking of the processed, packaged, terrible cafeteria foods at most schools and the processed, packaged curriculum and standards and multiple-choice tests fills me with rage.

It makes me feel ashamed to have been and to still be a part of it, even though the place I work now is a small private school in a small town in Guatemala.

As my 17 years (K-12 plus four years in college) in the system were coming to an end, as I was fretting over the daunting abyss of “real life” and freaking out about becoming yet another rat in the race, not coincidentally, I entered a period of several years battling various “clinical” mental illnesses.

The system put me on the honor roll, gave me a National Hispanic Scholarship, made me a diligent student and an academic achiever—a winner—but it in no way prepared me for adult life and autonomy.

If not for yoga, dharma and mindfulness, I’d still be living with those diagnoses and swallowing the bitter pills, at best.

It is tragic how many of us have been—and still are—duped into believing that traditional classroom learning is necessary and helpful.

It is beyond time for a new model of education. We need to uproot the whole system and start anew. Which, clearly, we haven’t a clue how to do on a grand scale.

I, for one, vow to do my best to be a mentor instead of a lecturer or teacher this year. I vow to help the adolescents in my care become lifelong learners who enjoy learning—about themselves, others, our world.

Let’s get to the list already! May it be of benefit.

1. Homeschooling.

A significant movement, and it’s not just for right-wing religious folk.

2. Unschooling.

As defined by Wikipedia, unschooling is “an educational method and philosophy that rejects compulsory school as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including playhousehold responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction.”

In other words, the wave of the future.

3. Natural Learning Communities.

Think Montessori plus Waldorf plus tons of field trips plus customized learning—only better!

4. Going to summer camp.

“Be engaged outdoors, not coerced indoors.” ~ Clark Aldrich

5. Spending time in libraries.

6. Doing internships and apprenticeships.

7. Running errands.

8. Taking family trips.

9. Self-study.

a.k.a. Meditation

10. Learning to play a musical instrument.

11. Taking a music or art class.

12. Exploring a museum.

13. Participating in (and watching) community theatre and improv.

14. Joining a book club.

15. Joining a writing group.

16. Starting up a garage band.

17. Making home movies.

18. Starting a small business.

19. Blogging.

20. Gardening.

21. Playing chess, checkers and other strategic games.

22. Taking yoga classes.

23. Doing guided visualizations.

24. Playing team sports.

25. Developing and maintaining an exercise routine.

26. Learning to cook.

27. Learning to sew, knit, crochet, quilt, etc.

28. Volunteering.

29. Going on a meditation retreat.

30. Planning, budgeting and executing an event or trip.

31. Having a conversation with an interesting expert about their experience.

32. Having a conversation with an elderly person about their life.

33. Reading whatever literature you want to—as opposed to textbooks, forced classics and Cliff’s Notes.

This is just a beginning, a budding brainstorm. I could go on, but instead I’m working on co-writing a book on the topic with a trusted friend and colleague.

What other ways of learning would you add to the list?


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo Credit: Duke University Archives/Flickr

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Gary Polanski Jun 28, 2015 2:16pm

Why do homeschool moms always watch us homeschooled teens like Hawks? It's super awkward at homeschool dances when a boy asks to dance with me, and our parents are staring at us as if … At homeschool group, often the moms make sure we don't come out of their sight. Why do homeschool moms seem to do this?

private homeschool program, all in one homeschool, christian homeschool

Michelle Riordan Oct 7, 2014 5:04pm

I whole heartedly agree! Thank you for sharing. I have 3 boys and the eldest of which is in a Steiner Warldorf school but my husband and I are planning to homeschool. Upon researching it further I have found unschooling to fall firmly into my belief systems. I'm excited!

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom.

She has been a columnist on Elephant Journal since 2010 and has self-published inspiring books. She incorporates dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting and pranayama into her teachings and practice. A former advertising copywriter and elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and translator. Michelle learned yoga from a book at age 12 and started teaching at 22. She met the Buddha in California at 23 and has been a student of the dharma ever since. Michelle is now approaching her forties with grace and gratitude.

Join Michelle for a writing and yoga retreat this summer at magical Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala! https://yogafreedom.org/group-retreats/